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Today’s guest is Andrea Stewart! Her story “Dreameater” was selected for Writers of the Future Volume 29, and her short fiction has also appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, and Mothership Zeta, as well as other publications. The Bone Shard Daughter, the first book in her debut epic fantasy trilogy, is coming out on September 8—but you can read an excerpt from it right now!

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart Book Cover


When I was a kid, I had a big book of beautifully illustrated fairytales that I read until both covers fell off. Most of the tales ended the same way. Man marries princess, woman marries prince. They lived happily ever after.

But what happens next?

Don’t get me wrong, I love stories filled with the flush of new romance, tales of unlikely love that end up somehow working out. A man or woman from a humble background, through ingenuity and/or integrity, wins the heart of royalty. And so they are lifted from poverty, rising into the upper echelons of society.

Two characters in my book have embarked on just such a romance. By the time the story starts, the meet-cute has already happened, hearts have already been won, class differences and caution tossed to the four winds. Ranami is a commoner who started life as a gutter orphan, scraping a living from the streets. Phalue is the daughter of their island’s governor, set to inherit both a palace and rule of the island.

Phalue wants Ranami to marry her. Ranami wants to start a revolution.

Before I started this book, I saw a tweet yearning for the coupling of a princess and a female warrior, and that got me thinking. First, I don’t think I see enough F/F pairings in fantasy novels. Second, I loved the idea of these two disparate women as a couple, as a team, both skilled in different ways. I changed things up a bit, though. Phalue is the warrior, and Ranami is the one who is well-read and political. They’ve been together for three years. They fight sometimes, but they each have a deep respect and regard for the other.

So they’re in love. But, spoiler: this isn’t all they need to live happily ever after. If it was, there wouldn’t be any story left to tell. And I think there is so much more story left to tell within the context of an established relationship. Even the best relationships with the two most perfectly suited partners experience conflict. What matters isn’t that there is conflict; what matters is how they work through it.

Neither Phalue nor Ranami is a bad person; each wants her partner to be happy. But differences in perspective can make it hard to see eye-to-eye.

As a child, I took the fairytales at face value. Of course the couple lived happily ever after. They were in love! The commoner wasn’t poor anymore! All their problems were solved! I could close the book and that was the end of it. The story was over. As an adult, I thought more about the complexities the characters in such a relationship might actually face.

The commoner grew up in poverty. They have people that they care about, friends they’ve made, empathetic connections formed with people from similar circumstances. The royal lives in a palace, surrounded by sycophants and wealth; they’ve never gone to bed hungry.

Would the commoner be content to then be lifted into wealth? What about the people they’ve left behind? Would the royal, no matter how kind and generous, understand the structural inequalities that led to their wealth? How could they, together, form a common understanding from which they could tackle the world as a team? I’ve realized as I’ve grown older, as I’ve left fairytales behind, that part of understanding one’s partner is understanding where they’ve come from. Even small differences can form gaps in understanding. I grew up biracial, both my parents having immigrated from their respective countries. My parents had many disadvantages, but eventually, by the time I could form memories, they were well off. My husband is white and was raised by a single mother in a small house with two siblings.

We…don’t always understand one another when it comes to food.

Larger differences in backgrounds mean that any problems, in the relationship or otherwise, are going to be seen through two very different lenses.

When farmers can’t meet their quotas, Ranami sees the quotas as unfair. Phalue sees farmers who have been given a fair bargain and simply aren’t working hard enough. Somehow, if they want to make their love work, they need to bridge this gap.

I still love fairytales. There’s something about them that resonates through time, that feels true despite the fairies and talking animals. But now, when I close the book, I can imagine a world in which the princess of “The Golden Bird” finally divorces the gardener’s son (because let’s be honest, the guy’s just a tad too foolish), Beauty and the Beast need to figure out how to survive the French revolution, and Cinderella and her prince start a social services bureau to check in on the well-being of orphans.

Even a happily ever after has an aftermath.

Andrea Stewart Photo
Photo by Lei Gong
Andrea Stewart is the daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books.

When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes.